What detailed steps should a UK-based custom motorcycle shop follow to meet vehicle safety standards?

11 June 2024

In the world of custom motorcycles, style often takes center stage. But, safety should never be compromised. For a UK-based custom motorcycle shop, meeting vehicle safety standards is not just a legal requirement but also a moral obligation. The question is, what detailed steps should such a shop follow? This article aims to provide an in-depth guide.

Understanding the Importing Process

Before we delve into vehicle safety and the standards you must adhere to, let's first understand the process of importing motorcycles. Whether you are bringing in classic bikes for restoration or importing custom parts, knowing the ins and outs of this process is paramount.

Firstly, you will need to get the vehicle registered. For a motorcycle to be registered in the UK, the importer must meet certain requirements. These include obtaining a Mutual Recognition certificate, which can be procured from the Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA). Another requirement is notification of the European Commission type approval number. If the motorcycle is not of European origin or design, it will need to meet certain safety and environmental standards set by the EPA.

Importing also includes understanding the customs process. You'll need to declare the motorcycle to UK customs, which can be done through the CHIEF (Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight) system. Import duties and VAT will also apply, the rates of which vary depending on the value and type of the vehicle.

Complying with Safety Standards

Now, let's focus on safety. When constructing or modifying motorcycles, your company needs to ensure compliance with all safety standards. These standards cover a vast range of categories, including engine emissions, braking systems, noise levels, and lighting equipment.

A custom motorcycle shop should familiarize itself with the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986. These regulations outline the minimum safety requirements for all vehicles, including motorcycles, on UK roads. A failure to adhere to these standards can result in severe penalties.

In addition, it's also important to follow the Motorcycle Single Vehicle Approval (MSVA) scheme if you're building low-volume or one-off bikes. The MSVA involves a pre-registration inspection to ensure that the motorcycle meets all necessary safety and environmental standards.

Choosing a Shipping Company

Once you've complied with all import and safety regulations, you might need to ship the motorcycle to your customers. Choosing a reliable shipping company is paramount in this step.

Look for a shipping company with a track record of handling motorcycles. They should be familiar with the necessary precautions to ensure the bike's safety during transit. These precautions might include using a dedicated motorcycle pallet and securing the bike with tie-downs.

Moreover, the shipping company should also understand the customs process. They should be able to provide assistance with customs declarations and fees, which can be a complicated process to navigate.

The Role of the EPA in Imported Vehicles

Lastly, we come to the role of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). When importing a vehicle, including motorcycles, into the UK, compliance with EPA standards is a must. These standards focus primarily on the emission levels of the vehicle.

The EPA has stringent rules on sulfur and nitrogen dioxide emissions. As such, the engine and exhaust system of the motorcycle you’re importing should be designed to minimize these emissions. It's also important to ensure that the motorcycle's fuel system is sealed to prevent the leakage of fuel vapors.

The Importance of a Classic Motorcycle's History

For those dealing with classic motorcycles, the bike's history is of the utmost importance. Not only does it provide a fascinating backstory for the customer, but it can also impact the safety of the vehicle.

Before purchasing a classic bike to modify or restore, research its history. Check for any past recalls that might affect its safety. If the bike has been involved in an accident or undergone significant repairs, it might not meet current safety standards.

In conclusion, meeting vehicle safety standards involves understanding the import process, complying with safety regulations, choosing a reliable shipping company, knowing the role of the EPA, and researching the history of classic motorcycles.

Managing Motorcycle Insurance and Customs Clearance

When importing a custom motorcycle into the UK, it's essential to have adequate motorcycle insurance. Keep in mind that you must arrange motorcycle insurance before registering it with the DVLA. The level of coverage depends on several factors, including the bike's age, value, and the intended usage.

The next step is to manage the customs clearance process, which involves paying import duties and taxes. These rates vary depending on the motorcycle's origin and value. The total value includes the purchase price, shipping costs, and insurance fees. This value is used to calculate the amount of Value Added Tax (VAT) that needs to be paid.

After the payment of duties and taxes, the motorcycle shop must complete the C88 customs form. It's a complex document that requires information like the bike's origin, value, and tariff classification. You can submit this document online through the CHIEF (Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight) system.

In addition, the motorcycle shop must also have the correct EORI (Economic Operator Registration and Identification) number. This identification number is required for businesses involved in the import or export of goods in or out of the UK.

Meeting The Applicable FMVSS and CFR Classic Standards

Another crucial step in adhering to vehicle safety standards is ensuring compliance with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) and the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Classic.

The FMVSS are legislations issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the United States. They are designed to keep roads safe by setting minimum safety performance requirements for motor vehicles. These regulations cover aspects such as braking performance, lighting, and crashworthiness.

On the other hand, the CFR Classic regulations focus on the import of classic or vintage motorcycles. They outline specific requirements for these types of vehicles, such as the need for a Certificate of Conformity. This document verifies that the vehicle complies with all applicable safety and emissions standards.

Remember, if you're importing a motorcycle from the United States, it must meet both the FMVSS and CFR Classic standards. Non-compliance could result in the refusal of importation or hefty fines.


Operating a successful custom motorcycle shop in the UK goes beyond delivering visually appealing motorcycles. It involves a deep understanding of processes such as importing motorcycles, complying with safety regulations, managing insurance and customs clearance, and meeting the FMVSS and CFR Classic standards. While these tasks may seem daunting, they are essential in ensuring that each custom motorcycle you produce is safe and legally compliant. Safety should be every motorcycle shop's top priority, as it directly impacts the well-being of the riders and the reputation of the shop. So, prioritize safety, stay informed, and continually strive for the highest standards in your custom motorcycle creations.

Copyright 2024. All Rights Reserved